The 'Kagame Reforms' of the AU: Will they Stick?
At the 27th Ordinary Session of the AU Assembly of Heads of State in 2016, Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame was entrusted with leading the institutional reform process of the AU. The decision to reform the organisation was a response to the seemingly perennial issues of an inefficient bureaucracy, lack of implementation, funding shortages, overlapping institutional mandates and political battles. These issues continue to hinder the AU’s ability to promote peace and security, and socio-economic and political integration on the continent. As a result, ‘The Imperative to Strengthen our Union: Report on the Proposed Recommendations for the Institutional Reform of the African Union’, commonly known as the ‘Kagame Report’, was presented in 2017 as the blueprint for change at the organisation. The report was premised on creating a powerful commission and sustainable self-financing. It identified 19 recommendations (later expanded to 21) that covered six reform areas, namely: focusing on fewer priority areas, ensuring a clear division of labour between AU structures, making the AU Commission more efficient and effective, strengthening the current sanctions regime, improving decision-making and the implementation of resolutions after AU summits, and ensuring equitable regional representation and gender parity in the recruitment process. Drawing on a comprehensive literature review and interviews with key stakeholders, this paper aims to provide an objective assessment of the progress made, including on the implementation of the Kigali Financing Decision, the implementation of decisions, and the changing mandate of the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM) and the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD). It begins by providing background on some of the challenges facing the AU and why previous attempts to reform the organisation have fallen short. This is followed by an analysis of the Kagame reforms, their achievements and the obstacles faced to date. Subsequently, the paper provides recommendations on how the reforms can be strengthened and consolidated to ensure that they do not suffer the same fate as previous attempts to reform the AU.